By Patti Johnson
One isn’t involved in the ministry life for long before you realize the harsh reality of saying goodbye to folks that you have cared for, invested in, served with and grown to love. The other reality is that sometimes you really don’t actually get to say goodbye. They just leave. You suddenly find yourself without them by your side. It’s as if you were in the middle of playing ping pong and you hit your ball and they are not on the other side of the table waiting to volley back. Sometimes it’s that quick. One Sunday they are there and the next they are not.
The reality is…you say goodbye, you wave goodbye, but they are not there to receive your words or your wave. You just are there reaching for the reason to this new reality without them. They were your friends, your serving partners, the audience to your teaching, your encourager, your sounding board.
You ask yourself, “Where did they go? And why?” Most times there is no answer. Just silence or a tape that plays in your head wondering what you did wrong. Mostly silence.
They have just left. Gone somewhere else.
So why after all the years and all the Sundays serving, do we still feel the sting when another one has left? Because it always hurts in some way. The unknowns, the unanswered questions always hurt.
We pretend there was a goodbye, a moment when we did wave and they saw. And then we move on…
To serve, to love, to encourage, to teach, to care. To continue to invest in those that are still there.
Until the next silent goodbye, the next unseen wave.
How do we do it, we who have been called to this life of ministry? We do it because of our calling.
Out of obedience. Out of love. Out of grace. Out of Jesus being the one that sustains us.
When you find yourself on the silent end of waving goodbye, just know you are not alone.
There are many kindred hearts feeling the same sting. Keep loving. Keep showing grace. Keep looking to Jesus to sustain you.